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Atmospheric Modeling and Analysis Research

Atmosphere-Ecosystem Exposure Application Studies

Application studies with motivated partners provide an important test laboratory to explore and assess how to apply improved techniques to advance the use of atmospheric models in ecosystem management studies.

Atmospheric deposition of sulfur and nitrogen is a key contributor to ecosystem exposure and degradation, causing acidification of lakes and streams, shifts in terrestrial biodiversity, and eutrophication of coastal systems.  Ecosystem managers must understand how atmospheric deposition affects their problems and what co-benefits can come from emissions reductions mandated by the Clean Air Act. 

With collaborative exposure application studies, using the modeling system as a laboratory, EPA develops an understanding of the needs of ecosystem managers through real world CMAQ applications. This helps identify the advances that multi-media science needs to deliver. Often the questions are nearly universal and general modeling guidance can be developed. For example, local solutions are not very effective — long-range transport dominates atmospheric deposition, so regional management approaches are necessary. These application efforts help make ecosystem management plans more efficient and effective where atmospheric deposition has an important role.

Research Projects

Regional Scale

  • Airsheds
    Airshed delineation gives scientists a sense of how far air emissions can travel, and how air emisssions contribute to deposition in coastal watersheds It also helps scientists determine which sources are responsible for a majority of the air deposition.
  • Chesapeake Bay
    Atmospheric deposition of nitrogen to the Chesapeak Bay watershed and Bay surface is a major contributor tothe Bay's nitrogen load, affecting current conditions that are being addressed in the Chesapeak Bay restoration program.
  • Future Midwestern Landscapes (FML)
    The Future Midwestern landscapes (FML) study examines how the landscapes of the Midwest contribute to human well-being.  The goal is to quantify those current contributions, and to examine how ecosystem services could change given the growing demand of biofuels.
  • Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia (GOMHypoxia)
    EPA is developing hydrodynamic and water quality models of the northern Gulf hypoxic zone in collaboration with the Department of the Navy. The goal of the models is to help determine the critical load of nutrients that would reduce the size of the hypoxic zone from approximately 15,000 km2 to a size of 5,000 km2.

National Scale

  • Critical Loads / National Atlas
    Mapping at the national scale is being developed with an initial focus on selected studies of nitrogen and sulfur inputs to the landscape.  The mapping of CMAQ deposition is for EPA’s National Atlas and for critical load analyses by EPA, USFS, NPS and USGS.

Ecosystems Services

  • Linking to Ecosystem Services
    Ecosystem services are those ecosystem products and functions such as clean air, clean water, food and fibre that are directly enjoyed or consumed by humankind.  The Community Multi-Scale Air Quality Model (CMAQ) quantifies regional-scale clean air ecosystem services.
  • Future Midwestern Landscapes (FML)
    The Future Midwestern landscapes (FML) study examines ways in which the landscapes of the Midwest contribute to human well-being.  The goal is to quantify those current contributions, and to examine how ecosystem services could change given the growing demand of biofuels.

 

 

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